Simplification of the immigration rules

The UK Immigration Rules are an important source of legal requirements for immigration control. Every year they inform hundreds of thousands of life-changing decisions, so they should be clear and easy to understand for  everyone who uses them.

However, the rules have been widely criticised for being long, complex and difficult to use. At the end of 2018, they totalled 1,133 pages. Many applicants cannot understand them, and they can even confuse expert legal practitioners.

The Law Commission began a project to review the UK Immigration Rules in December 2017. It aimed to make the rules simpler and more accessible.

The proposals

The consultation paper was published on 21 January 2019. It looked at:

  • how the rules had developed
  • how the rules could be reformed
  • the challenges they presented, including the prescriptiveness of the evidence applicants have to provide – such as proof of income

Our view

We welcomed the consultation and the opportunity to address these complex issues, which have needed attention for some time. We agreed the Immigration Rules:

  • must be clearer so that they’re fair to applicants and easily understood by them
  • need to be reviewed and redrafted to make them the primary framework for all immigration applications

The purpose of the project is to provide only a simplification of the Immigration Rules, and not as a way to introduce new policy changes. Any substantive changes to the law should be made separately from this process.

Clear, rational rules will help to create a system that's legally sound. Without this fundamental change, we're likely to see judicial intervention in the future.

What this means for solicitors

Simplifying the Immigration Rules will help solicitors advise their clients better around the immigration process and likely outcomes. The rules will:

  • be fit for purpose
  • improve access to the law
  • be reliable guidance on immigration applications

What’s happening

January 2021

Over the last year, we've been engaging with the Home Office as a member of its Simplification of the Immigration Rules Review Committee. In this role, we are giving technical feedback and our involvement doesn’t constitute endorsement with the direction of policy in this area.

The project is ongoing, with a list of the updates available on the GOV.UK website.

Further changes are expected in the coming months, which we will continue to engage on and provide updates accordingly.

March 2020

The government responded to the Law Commission’s report.

January 2020

The Law Commission published its report on simplifying the rules, recommending they’re completely redrafted.

April 2019

We responded to the Law Commission’s consultation.

During the consultation period, we:

  • worked with the Immigration Law Committee, giving opinions on prescription, discretion and formatting, using real-life cases from our members
  • communicated our members’ concerns and provided clear examples of where the complex rules have led to inconsistencies in applications which were rejected
  • gave feedback on technological developments and the problems these can cause in applying the rules

Read the original consultation, the Law Commission’s report and the government’s response on the Law Commission website.

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